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Inspired by conflict

The Oxford Literary Festival marks the centenary of the first world war

Anthony Gardner | March/April 2014

In the past few years there were mutterings that the Oxford Literary Festival, like its sponsor the Sunday Times becoming too bulky for its own good. Now, with its allegiance transferred to the FT Weekend, it is a sleeker enterprise, though the roll call of authors is still long and impressive. The festival’s most splendid venue, the 17th-century Sheldonian Theatre, should be packed for Alexander McCall Smith’s take on W.H. Auden; it also welcomes Robert Harris, Anita Shreve and Eleanor Catton, as well as an intriguing pairing of the formidable Malorie Blackman and Shami Chakrabarti, who discuss human rights in children’s books. 

A hundred years on from 1914, there’s heavy emphasis on writing inspired by conflict. Jeremy Paxman gives his line on Britain’s part in the Great War, Michael Morpurgo shares the stage with a string quartet for a dramatisation of his Holocaust tale “The Mozart Question”, Graham Farmelo and Philip Ball chair a debate on the moral dilemmas faced by scientists working for Hitler and Churchill, and Sebastian Barry, making a rare festival appearance, talks to Joan Bakewell about his new novel “The Temporary Gentleman”, set in the aftermath of the second world war. ~ Anthony Gardner

Oxford Literary Festival Mar 22nd-30th; oxfordliteraryfestival.org

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